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Equipping Your Ceramics Workshop

Aug 17, 2007
You're going to need several different tools to fully equip your ceramics workshop. A basic list of materials you will find useful in your workshop include: an inexpensive rolling pin which can be purchased at most chain stores and toy shops, pie plates, toothpicks, building plaster, an orange stick, a piece of ordinary, unsoaped steel wool, a sheet of grade 00 sandpaper, a paring knife, a scraper or spatula, a coarse sponge and a small facial sponge, some crocks or large Mason jars. You probably have most of these things already in the home.

A plastic or crockery pitcher will also find use in the workshop, as will a galvanized pail and a few cheap mixing bowls. If a pitcher is not readily available, you can substitute a large tin can with a lacquered inner surface. By pinching the rim of the lidless can, you will form a pouring spout.

If you plan to do much work with solid clay, it will be worthwhile to make yourself a wedging wire. Before clay is shaped it must always be wedged. This is a method of mixing a mass of clay thoroughly by cutting it in half and slamming the two pieces together on the work surface with the cut edges in opposite directions. This is done in order to remove all air pockets and holes, which would cause a piece to explode when fired, and to secure an even consistency.

A wedging wire is used to slice blocks of clay into two. Of course a knife can be used, but not as handily or effectively. This device is easily constructed by attaching dowel handles to the ends of a 12-inch piano wire, about 18 gauge.

The more ambitious ceramist can go a step further and build a wedging board, which serves the same purpose but is a more permanent fixture in the workshop. You can make a simple one by constructing a 6-inch deep wooden box measuring about 15x26 inches, and fastening at the back an upright post measuring about 1x2x18 inches. At the top of the vertical rod, secure a piece of non-rusting wire, not thinner than 12 gauge. The other end of the wire is stretched to the front of the box and fastened taut. Use a turnbuckle or a wingnut to tighten the wire.

The wedging board should be weighted by filling the box with plaster (mixed, perhaps, with gravel or small rocks).When using the board to cut clay, always start under the wire and draw the clay toward you. Thus, any bit of clay flicked out by the wire will be thrown away from you rather than hitting you in the face.

For decorating purposes, you will need several soft-hair brushes with which to apply colors and glazes. These can also be used for applying liquid clay (or slip), for mending and general modeling or shaping purposes. The brushes can be of average quality, such as imitation camel's-hair watercolor brushes. Both pointed and flat-tipped brushes should be in supply. Numbers 3, 5, 8 and 10 will serve almost all requirements.

Wooden modeling tools are also a great asset to any ceramics workshop because they simply clay shaping. It is easier to push the clay into rough form with a mallet or a block of wood than with the fist or the heel of the hand. These are just a few examples of items you'll need in your workshop.
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